Malpractice by door-to-door gas sales teams 'is getting worse'

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The Independent Online

The "scandalous" activities of rogue doorstep sales teams using high-pressure techniques to persuade people to switch power suppliers have become worse, according to customer complaints figures released today.

The "scandalous" activities of rogue doorstep sales teams using high-pressure techniques to persuade people to switch power suppliers have become worse, according to customer complaints figures released today.

Complaints about the direct selling of gas in November last year rose by 13.4 per cent compared with the previous month, while for electricity they went up by 12.5 per cent over the same period.

Beacon Gas/Seeboard was complained about most frequently over gas selling, with 1.93 complaints per 1,000 transfers, according to figures released by the gas and electricity watchdog, energywatch. Npower was the worst offender for electricity selling with 1.48 complaints per 1,000 transfers.

Earlier this year, energywatch launched a campaign to encourage customers to report allegations of malpractice as commission-based sales teams resorted to underhand tactics to try to secure new business. It cited the case of a 92-year-old registered blind woman who was persuaded to sign a contract she could not read by an agent working for British Gas. And despite the rise in the number of complaints, energywatch said they represented only a tiny proportion of the abuses. The watchdog called for greater controls to halt the practices.

The organisation, set up last year to protect energy consumers, discovered widespread abuses including forged signatures, intimidation and misleading information being handed out. The complaints spanned all forms of selling, including on the doorstep, telesales and street promotions.

Ann Robinson, the chairwoman of energywatch, said: "These figures reflect an appalling situation that companies must be made to tackle. It is a scandal that the level of complaints about mis-selling continues to increase. After five years of competition, they should be getting better."

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